|Matchup||Chicago Fire (13-9-5, 44 pts.) vs. New York Red Bulls (12-10-4, 40 pts.)|
|Date||Saturday, Sept. 9 • 3 p.m. CT|
|Location||Bridgeview, Ill. • Toyota Park|
|Spanish Radio||Univision América 1200 (WRTO)|
|Injuries, Suspensions, Lineup Projection||MLS Match Preview|
After a much-needed victory in Montreal last weekend, the Fire return home Saturday afternoon for a nationally-televised visit from the New York Red Bulls (3 p.m. CT, UniMas). Both sides enter the weekend vying for MLS Playoff positioning in a jam-packed Eastern Conference race that currently separates the sides by only four points. The Red Bulls took their home leg of this 2017 series in a 2-1 win in New Jersey in April, as the Fire now look to return the favor at Toyota Park on Saturday. Ahead of kickoff, here are a few key facts, faces and figures to keep in mind:
Key number: 200
The Red Bulls are a team that aren't afraid to get on top of their opponents to try and win back possession. Former Fire standout Jesse Marsch's Red Bulls side are top of the league in fouls conceded on the road with 200 so far in 2017. That's a firm 37 fouls higher than the league average this season and a figure that coincides with their MLS-high 1,491 50/50 duels attempted on the road this season, itself a total almost 200 higher than the MLS average. Make of that what you will, but don't expect high-pressing New York to sit back and wait for the ball on Saturday afternoon.
Matchup to watch: Dax McCarty vs. Sacha Kljestan
Having returned from the international duty with the U.S. Men's National Team this week, Fire midfielder Dax McCarty figures to slot right back into the heart of the midfield when his former team visits Toyota Park on Saturday. He and New York attacking midfielder Sacha Kljestan will likely occupy similar channels come kickoff, and limiting Kljestan's unique ability to unlock opposing defenses will be critical to keeping the Red Bull attack off the board. Kljestan's 13 assists this season are just one off the league pace set by Toronto's Victor Vazquez, and McCarty will be tasked with helping make sure that total doesn't increase on Saturday.
One Big Question: How much Brandon Vincent will we see on Saturday?
The second-year left back has been sidelined with a quad injury since being a pregame scratch from the Fire's July 22nd visit to New York City FC. After missing seven matches, Vincent made a brief cameo as regular time expired in last week's 1-0 victory in Montreal. Fully cleared for training this week, Vincent spoke on his re-immersion into the squad and his outlook on returning to the starting eleven this weekend.
50 for Fire?
With seven games remaining in the regular season, the Fire enter the weekend on 48 goals scored for the year, the club's highest single-season total since 2005 (49). Landing on 50 Saturday would tie this year's squad for the fifth-most prolific goal-scoring season in club history (2000: 67; 1998: 62; 2003: 53; 1999: 51; 2001: 50).
Sizing Up The Series
The Fire hold a 26-17-11 all-time regular season record against the Red Bulls/MetroStars, with a 15-4-8 record in matches played at Chicago that was built on a 14-match home unbeaten streak from 2005-15. Most recently, the Fire fell 2-1 in a visit to Red Bull Arena on April 29th -- despite Nemanja Nikolic becoming the first opposing player to score at the stadium in 2017 -- as New York extended its unbeaten run in the series to five games (4-0-1).
Quote of the Week:
"Any time you play a conference opponent, it's a six-pointer."
That's McCarty on the importance of these late season in-conference matchups, as the Red Bulls rest right on the heels of the Fire in the 2017 MLS Playoff chase. Hear it from the man himself in the video above.